Sleeping Beauty

Critics Consensus

This Disney dreamscape contains moments of grandeur, with its lush colors, magical air, one of the most menacing villains in the Disney canon.



Total Count: 41


Audience Score

User Ratings: 427,869
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Movie Info

Disney produced this lavish animated fairy tale, the most expensive cartoon ever made up to its release with a budget of $6 million. When the young princess Aurora is cursed at birth by the evil fairy Maleficent, the baby is kidnapped by a trio of good fairies who raise the girl themselves, hoping to avoid the spell's fulfillment. Nevertheless, at the age of 16, the beautiful Aurora falls into a deep sleep that can only be awakened by a kiss from her betrothed, Prince Phillip. Knowing that Phillip intends to save Aurora, Maleficent takes him prisoner. When the good fairies launch a rescue attempt, Maleficent transforms herself into a spectacular fire-breathing dragon, forcing Phillip to defeat her in mortal combat. Sleeping Beauty (1959) was Oscar nominated for its musical score, which featured adaptations of Tchaikovsky compositions. ~ Karl Williams, Rovi

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Eleanor Audley
as Maleficent
Barbara Luddy
as Merryweather
Taylor Holmes
as King Stefan
Bill Thompson
as King Hubert
Mary Costa
as Princess Aurora
Bill Shirley
as Prince Phillip
Pinto Colvig
as Maleficent's goon
Marvin Miller
as Narrator
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News & Interviews for Sleeping Beauty

Critic Reviews for Sleeping Beauty

All Critics (41) | Top Critics (6) | Fresh (37) | Rotten (4)

  • It is a picture that will charm the young and tickle adults, since the old fairy tale has been transferred to the screen by a Disney who kept his tongue in his cheek throughout the film's animation.

    Jan 28, 2016 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…
  • The masterpiece of the Disney Studios' postwar style.

    Sep 3, 2008 | Full Review…
  • The hero and heroine are sugar sculpture, and the witch looks like a clumsy tracing from a Charles Addams cartoon.

    Sep 2, 2008 | Full Review…
    TIME Magazine
    Top Critic
  • Mary Costa's rich and expressive voice for the title character gives substance and strength to it.

    Jul 2, 2008 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Top Critic
  • Although this rarely achieves the heights of classics like Snow White and Dumbo, it still has its moments.

    Jun 24, 2006 | Full Review…

    Derek Adams

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • The colors are rich, the sounds are luscious and magic sparkles spurt charmingly from wands.

    Mar 25, 2006 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Sleeping Beauty

  • Feb 11, 2013
    Revisiting films that we loved as a child is not always a good experience. Disney films took up such a large portion of our childhood viewing that the stories and imagery of said films became bound up with our notion of childhood itself. Hence it can be depressing or disconcerting to revisit these films as an adult, either to find that they were never really that good, or that the messages they contained were in hindsight deeply questionable. But for every time that Disney falls short or gives ample ammunition to cynics like me, we also get films which reaffirm our love for the company and the way in which they tell stories. Sleeping Beauty reaffirms Disney's good record with folk and fairy tales, with a near-perfect adaptation of Charles Perrault's story modelled on Pyotr Tchaikovsky's ballet. The result will send your heart soaring, being gleefully enjoyable, scary and romantic, all in the right places. That said, there is a certain bitter-sweetness to revisiting Sleeping Beauty. While it is a really great film in its own right, it is also Disney's last truly great film until the renaissance 30 years later. The film stands on a threshold between the golden age, where Walt Disney was personally involved in every film, and the wilderness years era where the company declined into increasingly safe and mediocre fare. There are little hints in Sleeping Beauty of what was to come, including Wolfgang Reitherman's presence as a supervising director. The one partial weakness of Sleeping Beauty is the quality of its animation. The film still looks stunning, with a wide range of bright, expressive colours, intricate backgrounds and very appealing character designs. But the colours are ever so slightly paler and less fluid than in Snow White, and there is a less of a shimmer to the cinematography than, say, Cinderella. Part of this was a conscious decision by Disney, who wanted to depart from the polished feel of these two films. But there are also shortcuts taken throughout, with the early reliance on narration, the multiple still book shots, and the crowd scenes where hundreds of extras are frozen to the spot. Considering that the film was the most expensive Disney had ever made, this might send alarm bells ringing. But the good news is that shortcuts aside, all the money on Sleeping Beauty went to the right places, namely the story, music and characters. While the production took eight years in total, the voice acting was recorded in full very early on, and only minor changes were made when the songs were added near the end of animation. As a result we get a fairy tale adaptation which doesn't need to rely on its visuals to weave its magical spell. First and foremost, Sleeping Beauty is a brilliant example of how to adapt a fairy tale. It is a great deal more faithful to Perrault's version than Cinderella was, playing everything straight and working overtime to sustain the feeling of magic and wonder it generates. Cinderella came a cropper because Disney made changes to the central character, adding a layer of unintentional cruelty to the final outcome. Aurora is far more innocent and genuine, with her reactions to every event that transpires being completely believable and empathetic. There is a wonderful innocence to the whole production, which roots the fairy tale in its period of origin and allows all the more theatrical and pantomime details to emerge naturalistically. With Cinderella, there was a feeling of Disney taking a 17th-century story and using it to justify a 1950s view of women, with a deliberate emphasis on contentment within domesticity, servitude and pipe dreaming. With Sleeping Beauty, the story is treated and presented as a product of its time; all the different elements make complete sense and none of the plot points or character developments feel like they have been manipulated or tweaked behind the scenes. Sleeping Beauty is also an example of the great potential in pantomime. The term is often used as an insult to describe something which is needlessly ridiculous or over-the-top - a criticism that results from the material trying to be something it's not. Like any genre or style, pantomime can be effective when it is openly accepted and put in the hands of people who understand the rules. Like its predecessor commedia dell'arte, it thrives on comic timing, and on this count alone the film is a masterpiece. The characters in Sleeping Beauty all correspond to the archetypes and character arcs of any modern pantomime. The two lovers (Aurora and Philip) may be the main people that we root for, but they aren't really the agents of the plot: they succeed because they are helped by both the supporting cast of characters and circumstances beyond their control. These supporting characters (mainly the three fairies) do most of the work in combatting the villain (Maleficent), having limited powers of their own but relying in ingenuity to protect Briar Rose. There's also a lot of comedy based around confusion, with the arguments between the two kings or the king and Philip resembling the bluster between the king and the duke in Cinderella. The protagonists in Sleeping Beauty are all thoroughly appealing, whether because they fit archetypes we know and love, or because they are simply well-written. Aurora may be incredibly beautiful but she's still as impulsive and curious as we would expect teenagers to be; her reaction both to seeing Philip and being told she can't see him again are really believable. The fairies are a lot of fun, with the sensitive Fauna busying herself quietly while Flora and Merryweather scrap over anything from the plan to hide Aurora to the colour of her birthday dress. The film is also beautifully paced, thanks largely to its soundtrack. Setting the story to Tchaikovsky's ballet is a masterstroke because it gives the film a consistent and brilliant rhythm, which in turn keeps the plot moving forward. The score is powerful and evocative enough in its own right, but where songs are added they don't trample on Tchaikovsky so much as reshape it, particularly the recurring theme of 'Once Upon A Dream'. The cast sing beautifully, particularly Mary Costa as Aurora, and the woodland scenes with Rose and the animals rival Snow White for their gleeful charm. Like all good pantomimes, Sleeping Beauty has the capacity to be dark and creepy when it needs to be. One of the most striking moments in the whole film is the hypnotism of Aurora, in which our heroine is led in a trance away from her guardians, into a dark tower and to touching the fatal spinning wheel. For all the scariness of Snow White, these scenes are every bit as creepy as the Evil Queen's transformation, and the score really drives home just how threatening Maleficent is. Maleficent is arguably the greatest villain that Disney ever created. Her character design is quite superb, with a sinister blend of black, purple and pale green topped of by the flowing cloak and demonic horns. Not only is her motivation pure spite, but she goes about her evil work in a cruel but enticing way. She charms you with her elegance and quiet delivery, only to terrify you with her outbursts and the immense power she commands. Eleanor Audley's vocal performance is simply perfect, bettering her previous work for the company as Cinderella's Lady Tremaine. Sleeping Beauty is a truly great Disney film which has only grown in stature over time. While its animation isn't as glossy or as polished as Disney's 1940s efforts, it excels itself everywhere else, with enthralling characters, a fantastic villain, great comedy and a beautiful soundtrack. Every emotional development is perfectly judged and complimented by the next, making it Disney's best all-round effort since Snow White. It's just a shame we had to wait another 30 years for them to produce something this good again.
    Daniel M Super Reviewer
  • Nov 26, 2012
    Quite dark for a princess story, Sleeping Beauty succeeds because of the beautiful animation and its iconic villain. These elements help it avoid becoming just another fairy tale movie.
    Matthew Samuel M Super Reviewer
  • Jul 05, 2012
    Very colorful, classy, and magical. One of Disney classics and best. Most animated films of today can't even compete with it's passionate storytelling. The most important part of a film has to be the story. The purpose of a film is to tell a story so If the story is not good then that brings the rating lower. The writing itself had lots of goofs but they could easily be explained but I'm not going to do that right now. The plot was simple and straight forward. It followed the plot structure nicely. The voice overs where done very well. It gave the characters more personality. The character design was very well crafted by hands of artists. Maleficent has to be the most menacing Disney villain in the history of not just Disney but time. It's really cool how she turns to a dragon and the prince battles her. Animated films have to have good character design because that's one of the big parts of the film. Great direction especially art direction. The pacing was nicely done. Most children films now-a-days are fast paced. I heard that this got bad reviews back in the old days. The people that gave bad reviews should read my review. I read most of them and noticed that all they did was try to find anything that could lead to bad education. I would recommend this to
    Eduardo T Super Reviewer
  • Apr 28, 2012
    Disney's Sleeping Beauty is a wonderful classic. The studio has always strived on bringing terrific animated features to the screen, and Sleeping Beauty continues that tradition. Brilliant from start to finish, and well drawn, this is a marvelous childhood favorite. Sleeping Beauty is a bit dark, and it might scare little kids under the age of five, but for the most part. The film is easily one of the studios best since Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Like many of Disney's first films, this film still belongs among the best of Disney's output. The classic, simplistic nature of this film is what really makes it such a memorable film to watch. I very much enjoyed the film and thought it was a brilliant classic with a great voice cast. Disney's strength lies in the simplistic tales that each film has, but they do it in such a way that it's hard to forget these films. Sleepy Beauty is a great film, one that is perfect for anyone of all ages. Even with its dark overtones, this is a film that children will love; I certainly enjoyed it when I was young. If you're looking for another great Disney classic, Sleeping Beauty is a must film. This is a fine film from start to finish, one that is just as memorable as previous Disney films. Brilliantly acted, drawn and told; Sleeping Beauty remains a definite classic in the Disney catalogue. If you love the old school Disney films, give this one a shot, it is a very memorable film, and yet another classic.
    Alex r Super Reviewer

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